“Women, when you begin to make fierce sounds on your own, don’t be surprised if it’s difficult at first. Start gently. Get close to the earth. These sounds may bring up memories, emotions. Have a way to work with them. When you get together to make fierce sounds with other women, experiment. Try a growl, a howl. You are sounding for all the beings that have no voice. It’s bigger than your personal story. The sounds of outraged women have not been heard collectively on this planet for a long time. Let them out. We are a force of nature. It’s time to quit being afraid of our power. Many women are terrified of their outrage. They confuse it with anger. Anger is a small, though intense, emotion. Outrage is rooted in love. It’s ok. Understand it’s time. Time for these sounds to come out.” –Rebecca Singer, founder of the Fierce Heart movement
One hot summer day my friend Rebecca and I both participated in local marches in different towns in support of immigrants’ rights. A lively band called Tinhorn Uprising led our march in song. At Rebecca’s march there were choruses of an oft heard call and response: “Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” Nothing wrong with the sentiment, but Rebecca suddenly knew she was done with the old chestnuts, chants and songs. A powerful vision came to her:
Thousands of women in the streets, roaring, howling, banging pots and pans, beating drums, sounding their outrage on behalf of the planet. Women in an ancient lineage of women, raising their voices together, making fierce sounds beyond words.
The vision came to Rebecca, but she believes it belongs to all of us. She created a Fierce Heart FaceBook group, which now has nearly a thousand members. But, as Rebecca insists, joining a group on FaceBook cannot be a substitute for taking action. She encourages people to hold Fierce Heart practice in small or large groups of women, indoors and out. As of this writing, women have held practices in eight states and three countries.
I attended one of the first practices at Rebecca’s house. There were five of us, standing in a circle. As I let the sounds rise through my body, I felt memories rise also, memories of times when I felt helpless in the face of abuse. Many women have expressed trepidation about engaging in the practice for that very reason. As I made sound, I experienced a powerful sense of no longer being powerless. I could roar outrage on behalf of my younger self. From there, the sounds became less personal or perhaps transpersonal. The sounds of the fierce heart are the sounds of any mother creature defending young, or the sound of outrage at anything that has been forced—from the rape of our bodies, to the rape our earth and waters, to the corruption of our judicial system, to the plight of whales, salmons, bears, coral reefs, forests…
Next we practiced outside. Twelve women gathered in a public park, at least four of them with reservations. We began by connecting with each other, holding hands, speaking our names. Then, with a tree of life meditation, we connected with earth and sky, reminding ourselves that we are part of all that is. We agreed to participate to whatever degree felt right to each of us and that silent support for those making sound was fine. Then we let it rip, all of us. Our sounds came in waves. We rested between them the way a laboring woman might rest between contractions. We experimented, making sound facing in, then turning, linking arms, and making sounds facing out. We concluded facing each other, raising a huge wild sound that rose into the air. Then, as one, we knelt with our hands and foreheads on the earth, returning the sound of our fierce hearts to its source.
Afterwards one woman said, “That wasn’t just practice, we did something! It was real.” Women spoke of wanting to meet again to make sound on ridges, by rivers, at places and times of significance to them. Even those who began with reservations felt exhilarated afterwards.
To bring ourselves another step closer to the streets, we next participated in a rally about climate change and experienced the challenges of being fully public. Addressing a crowd from a makeshift stage with a microphone was not part of Rebecca’s vision. And yet, however tentatively, a number of women stepped forward and participated, some of them moved to tears.
Can there be thousands of Fierce-Hearted women lifting their voices in the streets? If there were, would it change the world? In some religious traditions, sound is the source of creation. Medical technology uses sound waves to destroy kidney stones. The truth is, I don’t know what effect our voices could have on the world. I do know that daring to make fierce sound changes me, changes us. It takes courage to let these sounds out. It is at once an act of vulnerability and of power. It feels right to make sound on behalf of our beloved earth, the source of all life.
Part of Rebecca’s initial vision included choosing a day when all Fierce-Hearted women make sound, wherever they are, in circles with other women or on their own. Sunday, October 28th is that day. Rebecca Singer will be sounding at Trump Tower in Manhattan at 1:00 pm. You are welcome to join her.
At 2:00 on October 28th I will be at on a hilltop overlooking the Hudson River at Poet’s Walk 776 River Rd, Red Hook, NY 12571. You are welcome to join me.
See the Fierce Heart page for more information about gatherings. Please feel free to create your own Fierce Heart event on October 28. Sisters, let’s lift our fierce hearts and voices!
Elizabeth Cunningham is best known as the author of The Maeve Chronicles, a series of award winning novels featuring a feisty Celtic Magdalen. Coming November 1st: the 25th anniversary edition ofThe Wild Mother, joiningThe Return of the Goddess, released last year in a 25th anniversary edition—two classic feminist novels. Elizabeth is also the author of Murder at the Rummage Sale. The sequelAll the Perils of this Night will be published in 2019. An interfaith minister, Cunningham is in private practice as a counselor. She is also a fellow emeritus of Black Earth Institute.